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Supreme Court rejects Catholic Church's attempt to stop old sex abuse cases

KNX 1070 News Radio Los Angeles logo KNX 1070 News Radio Los Angeles 6/23/2022 Stephanie Raymond
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The U.S. Supreme Court is keeping the door open for victims of clergy sex abuse to file claims in California.

The court on Tuesday rejected an 11th-hour plea by nine Catholic bishops and archbishops seeking to overturn a California law allowing people to sue over childhood sex abuse regardless of how long ago it occurred, The Press Democrat reported.

At issue is the California Child Victims Act, which opened a three-year "look back" window, from 2020 to 2022, for sexual abuse claims previously barred by the statute of limitations to be brought against an abuser and the institution that employed them -- no matter when the abuse took place.

The legislation follows a similar action in 2002 that opened a one-year window for victims to bring sexual-abuse claims against the Catholic Church and others. That resulted in more than 850 lawsuits against the church, which it paid more than $1 billion to settle, according to the bishops.

In their petition to the Supreme Court, the bishops argued that the Child Victims Act allows claimants to come forward after the timeframe to do so has expired twice, and it allows claims that impose new punishment not considered the last time, the Catholic News Agency reported. The bishops added that they have already dealt with "ruinously expensive" claims and that California's action changes law retroactively and is unconstitutional.

"Since the State's previous revival statute induced the Dioceses to take dramatic steps to pay for the last round of revived claims, the Dioceses now stand largely defenseless against this second wave," the petition states. "The potential financial implications for the Church are thus nothing short of ruinous."

The justices, however, were unmoved; they refused to hear the case and dismissed the petition, which was filed in April.

The court's decision means survivors of childhood sexual abuse have until December 31, 2022 to file claims against their abuser, the Catholic Church or any other institution, without any statute of limitations.

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